If you’re a vegan, or even a vegetarian who balks at the idea of factory-farmed moo juice, you probably douse your morning bowl of granola with Silk Soymilk. After all, according to the Organic Trade Association, White Wave’s USDA-certified-organic Silk is the No. 1-selling soy milk in the U.S., securing a prodigious 75 percent share of the growing soy-milk market.
You may even have heard murmurs that Silk started importing organic soybeans from China, Brazil, and Argentina to supplement local beans because of shortages in 2003. What you may not know (and I was until recently blissfully unaware of) is that the practice continues today, likely because imported soybeans cost as much as $4 less per bushel than those obtained domestically. (We have no idea if these beans are traded fairly, either, so don’t look for consolation there.)
Most of us know that buying local is one of the linchpins of sustainable living, not only because of the tremendous amounts of fossil fuel it takes to transport food vast distances, but also because of the pollution fuel combustion releases into the environment. So why import what we already have? Doug Radi, marketing director for Silk, said in a statement that the majority of the soybeans Silk buys are domestic. “We are committed to making practical decisions that are consistent with sustainable business principles,” he said. I don’t pretend to know very much about soy farming, but I’m guessing Doug here didn’t exactly assuage the concerns of organic soybean farmers in the Midwest.
The plot sickens …
A little online spelunking revealed that White Wave operates under the auspices of Dean Foods, one of the not-quite-benign corporations represented by the Organic Trade Association, which successfully lobbied to attach a rider to the 2006 Agricultural Appropriations Bill to allow certain synthetic food substances in the preparation, processing, and packaging of organic foods, thereby weakening existing organic standards. (The bill passed into law in November and will go into effect later this year.)
I also came across a release which celebrated the fact White Wave buys green tags to offset its own carbon emissions. This is, of course, commendable, but wouldn’t it be far better not to contribute to those same emissions by shipping soybeans from overseas in the first place? Something about this smells like poopy diapers, if you ask me.
So until I figure out how to grow and crush my own soybeans so I don’t have to second-guess where my soymilk comes from, I’ve temporarily switched allegiances to soy milk from Organic Valley, which, as far as I can tell, buys all its soybeans domestically. How much stock you wish to place in that assertion after your heart has been ripped apart, stomped on, and flattened out by a relationship you thought would LAST FOREVER is a matter I leave to your own discretion.